The lone gunslinger

Published: 26 October, 2011 06:41 IST | Rocky Thongam |

In his autobiography, Abhinav Bindra shares experiences that led to his Olympic gold win in Beijing. Read on, to know the similarities between the ace shooter and James Bond

In his autobiography, Abhinav Bindra shares experiences that led to his Olympic gold win in Beijing. Read on, to know the similarities between the ace shooter and James Bond

Not very long ago, there was 'a fat boy, a normal gregarious kid, who wasn't keen on reading, hated physical activity and was ambivalent about playing sport.'  For a while he played golf with his father and hoofed around a football but gave up easily. But in 2008, the same boy won India's first individual Olympic gold with the highest score ever in an Olympic final.

At age 8, firing a  toy pistol on a family holiday

Did Abhinav Bindra walk around Beijing bare-chested with his medal? Did his quest for gold involve wearing customised compression underwear? Why doesn't he have a girlfriend or does he have one? The reclusive and reticent Olympian reveals it all in his recently released autobiography -- A Shot at History, My Obsessive Journey to Olympic Gold. Excepts from an interview:

A young gun at his house in Dehra Dun

'I was shooting for personal pride, not much more, but others compete for something more elemental.  Like finding a steady job with a government institute, escaping hardship, living a decent life �' The others you talk about in your book couldn't afford to fail but you could. Contrary to the criticism from some quarters that you had it easy, was your path to success thorny?
The desperation to win, to perform kept me going. Every sport has a lot of pressure. I am naturally competitive but so is everyone at an Olympics.  So, I dug deeper and I had to find leftover scraps of courage within me. It is not something you can buy. 

At his house in Dehra Dun with his siter Divya after taking part in a
school play
What everybody seems concerned about is your struggle for the medal, and the 60 kilograms of ladoos your mother ordered and the six hundred missed calls on your phone on the day you won your gold. But there was the post victory depression few know about. Tell us about things after the win.
For 15 long years I had woken up every morning with a single purpose: winning. Then I'd done it. There was emptiness. I didn't have a goal. It was tough. I had locked up my shooting range and didn't touch my guns. But I'm back and training for my competitions.

Abhinav at the Dortmund Range where international women shooters
were also training. Pic/ Heinz Reinkemeier

Talking about training, you ordered yak's milk from China, hired a wedding hall in Chandigarh for practice and even wore customised compression underwear. Are the rumours true?
You know what, if you've read the book, you know already it's all true. I have written no lies. Yes, for the record, I ordered cartons of skimmed yak milk from China because someone told me it would help improve concentration. I don't use them anymore so I can send them to you if you like. And I also ordered customised compression underwear for my training. 

You haven't been very kind to sports officials in our country in the book. Are you courting controversy when you write, 'A senior official called me Anwar Sultan before the Sydney Olympics. The Indian Olympic Association boss, Suresh Kalmadi, refered to me as Avinash. I'm a shooter, hardly a household name, but you'd think he'd know who I was, considering I had just won Olympic gold in Beijing'?
My intentions were not to court controversy or malign anyone. I have only been honest in my writing. Once, an official, on being told a (shooting) jacket can cost 1,000 euros, says: You must be wearing it on an Armani or Versace? Usually, humour gets me through such situations. And even if they believe it is offending they should take it sportingly. After all, aren't they sport administrators? 
James Bond and you use guns manufactured by the same company. You also have a photograph in your book where you are flanked by women shooters. We know you like Milkha Singh, Rahul Dravid and Mohammed Ali. But do you like the British spy too?
(Laughs) Yes, I remember that snap, I just happened to be the only male at the range were the international women shooter were also training.  
Now that you are talking of women, Rohit Brijnath (the sports journalist with whom Abhinav wrote the book) says you don't buy Ferraris, wear tattoos, don't party and don't have a girlfriend. Why does a man who received 380, 000 telegrams (some containing marriage proposals) not have a girlfriend?
I don't know. I still don't have a girlfriend. I'm too focused on my craft. I'm still reserved. This book is not an endeavour to change my personality. It was a story I wanted to tell and help inspire other aspiring sportspersons.

Excerpt from the book
'I was not by any stretch a natural shooter; I'm not that good, not such an innate artist. Admittedly, if you examined my genetic blueprint, one thing you wouldn't find is any athletic DNA. Coordinated movement wasn't my thing. My German coach, Heinz Reinkemeier's favourite story is of me and Valentina Turisini, the Italian Olympic silver medalist, playing badminton in his garden in a university town in Germany.

A neighbour strolled by and inquisitively asked: 'Who are they?' Replied Heinz: 'They are Olympic champions.'
The neighbour was stunned: 'I cannot believe it; I have never seen two such untalented movers. But if I don't have VVS Laxman's hand-eye magic, or Leander Paes' instinctive athleticism, I do have one thing: fine motor control. You know those movies where the hero gently draws the detonator out of the bomb with 0.4 seconds left on the timer. I'd be good at that.'
A Short At History, My Obsessive Journey To Olympic Gold, Harper Collins, Price Rs 399

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